Author’s Note: I hope you are now motivated and anxious to become more self-reliant. I have begun teaching Preparedness classes over the internet. I would love to teach a class for your ward, family group, neighborhood organization, your Facebook community or to a group to which you belong. Please contact me through messenger at Facebook.com/totallyready or in the comment section here. These classes make it easy to share with each other and for me to answer questions. I hope to hear from you soon!
As you begin your food storage journey or improve on the storage you already have, let’s address one of the excuses I hear: “I can’t afford it”. Yes, you can. You may not be able to build as quickly as others, but you can do this.
Remember, “When obedience ceases to be an irritant and becomes our quest, in that moment God will endow us with power”. (Ezra Taft Benson) God will empower us and open ways as we do our part.
I asked friends and members of the Totally Ready Facebook community for their advice and tips for accumulating food storage on a budget. Following are a few of their tips.
I hear so many say to save $$ always shop with a list. Nope! If we see an item on a great sale, we pick it up. Then create menus around the sales or put it in storage. Always check the end caps for sales, check the canned foods and sauces. They last a long time. We only store what we know we will eat…so we don’t stock up in weird things…but the basics that can form any meal.
My Response: Before I go to the store each week, I check the ads to make sure I don’t miss an advertised sale. Be aware there are always other items on sale besides the ones advertised. This usually happens when there is another delivery of that items due and they need to clear out the older to make room or because they were able to purchase at a reduced price items the food producers wanted to clear out of their warehouse. If you are unfamiliar with the term “end cap”, this refers to the end of the aisle where sale items are customarily placed.
We just inventoried our “pantry.” We are making a list of things we need to replace or increase. After we make a list, I will watch ads and make the most of our food budget. I may even sacrifice a little of my usual budget to make up our food storage deficit. We may have to change our eating style for a few days a week, but it will also help us evaluate our future needs. $20 or $30 twice a month can make a big difference.
My Response: Thirty dollars will purchase a week’s supply for one of vegetables, fruit, tuna, canned chicken, pancake mix, corn bread mix, 1 brownie mix, and a dozen eggs. This may not be all you need for a week but it’s a huge start! What are we willing to sacrifice for peace of mind?
Even small things make a difference!
My response: Yes! You can buy oatmeal for less than $2.50 that will make 7-8 breakfasts. Breakfast for 31¢!
I shop the sales and coupon to get the most out of our monthly grocery budget for short term storage items. It builds up over time. For long term items and/or more expensive gear we have a separate monthly budget. Anything leftover at the end of the month still gets put into savings for those categories so we are saving up for case lot sales, good sale months or more expensive items.
My response: There are great tips here. Set a budget and place the cash for your food storage budget in an envelope. Shop the sales and if there is nothing you need on sale, save the cash. Continue adding to the food storage envelope each week until there are foods you need on sale. I really wish we had case lot sales here! Every Monday on the Totally Ready Facebook page, we are posting food and non-food items to purchase that week. If you don’t need those items save the money for the next week.
36 years of being married and it’s always been part of the budget. We couldn’t survive without it. We have helped others who had no food and we had no money to give but I could load up a couple boxes of food and share in our bounty. Make it a priority.
My response: Yes, life is about priorities. I spoke at a communications conference a few years ago and Elder Jay Pimentel (Area Seventy at the time) also spoke. He reminded us it’s really: Emergency Preparedness and Response. When we are prepared, we are ready to respond not only to our own family needs but the needs of others whether that be a few meals or more.
I can according to sales. When roasts are on sale, I have the butcher cut in cubes. Then can it for stew meat.
My response: I love this! You may have noticed the price of beef skyrocketed for several months. If you do not have freezer space to store meats, learn to can it. Reach out to friends and I bet there is someone close who can lend you equipment and teach you to use it.
Fortunately, my second husband and I were both committed to having food storage from day one of our relationship. We meal planned a month at a time, did one major shopping trip a month for everything except milk and produce, used coupons where we could, ate lots of oatmeal for breakfasts, rarely ate out, packed leftovers for lunch, and purchased a few extra cans of vegetables, fruits, or meats every time we ran to the store for milk and produce. My husband worked as a flat-rate mechanic most of his adult life and we never knew how much his paycheck would be until the end of the last day of the pay period. I can’t tell you how many times we relied on what was in our storage when his paycheck was small. If he got a larger than usual check, we would replenish what we had used and buy a little bit more to put back for the next time the paycheck was small.
We didn’t always have exactly what we wanted to eat, but we never went hungry. We also decided early on that we needed ingredients to make desserts at least once a week. A nice dessert made a less favored dinner go over a little better. A cookie packed along with a boring sandwich helped make lunch a little more exciting. We involved the kids in the menu planning, packing their lunches, and cooking hot cereals for the family. Who knew we’d all like chocolate malt o meal and that oatmeal could be made so many different ways?
My response: Oatmeal bars are a fun breakfast. Pull out the brown sugar, cinnamon, peanut butter, nuts, dried fruit, honey, even syrup and let everyone get creative.
Desserts are a must have in every good storage program. A big reason we store food is to provide comfort during difficult times, food can do that. A favorite dessert tells the birthday girl she is valuable and loved and mom and dad have this handled. Let’s face it desserts are a comfort food for adults as well.
Totally Ready, we also had a bit of a shift in our attitude towards food. While we really, really enjoyed eggs, bacon, sausage, waffles, and hash browns for breakfast it wasn’t cost effective for our family. We didn’t eliminate big breakfast, but it became very occasional on the menu. We started viewing food as fuel for our bodies to function. We also started discussing nutritional values more with the kids and that helped guide us to more economical food choices. Don’t get me wrong, everyone in our family still indulges in the occasional weekend big breakfast with all the fun stuff, but mostly our time, energy, and money go for more simple meals.
My Response: Teaching nutritional value is awesome. For those who love sausage and bacon for breakfast I have begun stretching them. When we have either, we are satisfied but are still being more frugal. For example, if I make scrambled eggs, I cut bacon or sausage in small pieces and add them to the eggs. I use half as much as I would if we were just eating slices or links. I have also added small pieces to pancakes and waffles. We feel spoiled at half the cost.
Couponing, cashing in bottles & cans, looking for buy 1 get 1 sales can give extra $ in accumulating food storage.
My Response: I have a grand daughter who wanted to earn money so she posted on her mom’s Facebook page that she was recycling cans and would pick them up from anyone who had some. A friend works in an office and told her she could have all the cans from there, a constant supply. So far, she has made over $400 recycling cans from friends and neighbors.
I buy non-perishable items in 3’s. One to use, one to use next time, and one to store. Then if my recipe requires 2, I double it. Only buy items you are willing to cook with. If you don’t want to grind wheat or use powdered milk, don’t buy them. Save your storage space for foods your family likes. Your food storage is just an extension of your pantry/kitchen.
My Response: Kim makes some great points. Only buy what you normally cook with and we all have limited space to store so don’t waste it by storing things you will never use.
Prioritize spending disposable income. Going to dinner and a movie or spending that $ on supplies or skills lessons or equipment. Choosing to apply the cost of a new designer purse toward the purchase of a new water filtration system. The latest cell phone or … ( you fill in the blank). Prioritizing disposable income.
I’ll let the prophets respond to this:
President Ezra Taft Benson has urged each of us to be productive and to store what we produce: “You do not need to go into debt … to obtain a year’s supply. Plan to build up your food supply just as you would a savings account. Save a little for storage each paycheck. Can or bottle fruit and vegetables from your gardens and orchards. Learn how to preserve food through drying and possibly freezing. Make your storage a part of your budget. Store seeds and have sufficient tools on hand to do the job. If you are saving and planning for a second car or a TV set or some item which merely adds to your comfort or pleasure, you may need to change your priorities. We urge you to do this prayerfully and do it now.” (Ensign, Nov. 1980, p. 33.)
When we were first married, we both agreed that food storage (which later included other preparedness items) was important. But we were literally counting every penny. We didn’t know how we were going to do it. People would say buy case lots, but we couldn’t afford to. But we could afford to buy one extra can. So, each week we bought one extra can of something. We had our little stash of half a dozen or so cans separate from the rest of our food and to be honest it looked pathetic. But we knew that if we were to meet God that day, we could honestly say that we were doing all we could to follow His counsel. Week by week and can by can, our storage grew. As did our income. We could start buying case lots and include other things like flashlights or a water filter. I guess the point is that you start where you are with what you can do and then be consistent even if it is only one can at a time.
My Response: When we got engaged, we started our food storage by collecting our change every night. At the end of the week when I went shopping, I used that to buy food storage. By the time we got married we had a trunk full of food. I know using cash has become a bit old fashioned but if you want to stick to a budget and really understand your spending habits begin by using cash.
My friend’s mom tells how her husband (now ex) refused to set aside money in the budget for food storage. So this is what she did with her grocery $$: for a month she would cook an extra meal for dinner and freeze that. At the end of the month she would have 30 dinners in the freezer for the following month. Then during that following month, with the grocery $$ she had freed up by having the frozen meals, she had a little extra $$ to buy food storage items. She would do this every second month. (It was only a small portion of $$ because she said still had to buy fresh things for daily eating like bread, milk and fruit)
My Response: I love this tip! Freezer meals are easy to prepare and they save money keeping you from running for fast food when you need something quick. They are great when you need to take a meal to a friend who is ill. When you make freezer meals you know every ingredient and now, thanks to this tip, we know in addition to those advantages they can help you set aside money to add to your food storage budget.
A few tips from me:
Set a budget for grocery shopping AND for food storage. As you use the tips for frugal eating and shopping you will have extra money in your food budget that can be transferred to use for food storage.
Buy store brands, at least try them. Name brand foods are often more expensive than store brands. People assume that the price is higher because they are better quality, that is not always the case. The price is higher because you are paying for product testing, commercials, and advertising.
Did you know that most of the time, store brands are processed in the same factory as the name brand? They just get a different label. I worked for a season in a Hunts tomato processing plant and the testing, sorting and canning of a Hunts product and store brand product are exactly the same. If there is a difference it is only in the spices added, in pizza sauce for example.
Look down and look up. Check the bottom and top shelves in the grocery store. The most expensive foods will be stocked at eye level. Companies pay a lot of money for prime shelf space.
Take advantage of free fruit. Ask friends to share the fruit from their fruit trees and vines.
Change where you shop. You may not want to get your produce or meat at the discount grocery store, although I do and it’s great, but shopping for other items at a discount store can save more than you may realize.
Know the sales cycle and stock up when things are on sale. Most foods will be on sale every 12 weeks. During a holiday season this may be even more often. March is frozen food month so watch for sales them on your favorite frozen vegetables and even meats.
Shop the loss leaders each week. Lost leaders are the killer deals in grocery ads. At Easter it will be eggs for $.79 or ham at prices that seem lower than you have seen in years. Stores know as you add those items to your cart you will also add items at full price. The goal is to get you in the store. Put on blinders and head right for the sale items and get out! The quantity you purchase may be limited so take a child or spouse with you and have them check out separately.
Check unit prices. Compare the cost per ounce or pound. Last night I purchased a 20-ounce bag of chips for $3.99 or 20 cents an ounce, compare that with the individual bags which were 36 cents an ounce. Why not purchase plastic containers to use in lunches and fill with chips. After just a few lunches the containers will be paid for.
Check the clearance rack. You can find great buys on the day-old rack of breads and desserts but also watch for items being discontinued. Often items are discontinued because labeling is changing or the producer is no longer paying for shelf space. Meats are also a great place to find bargains as they approach their pull dates. Our discount grocery store pulls them and places them in the freezer section at a discount.
Shop during senior discount days. Get together with friends, divide up the stores you frequent and call them to ask about senior discounts. Restaurants often have discounts for seniors. In many stores and restaurants, you have to ask for the discount so get together a list and start asking for discounts.
Check chain pharmacy stores for deals. These stores often have” buy one get one” deals and you can come away with a free product or a discounted one. Also, do not buy medications and cleaning supplies at the grocery store. A pharmacy store or dollar store will be much cheaper.
Use a store pick up service. If you have little self-control and find yourself placing things in your cart that you did not intend to purchase, order online and pick up. You must consider all the costs of using this option. Some of our stores charge for the service, they all charge for bags, but at different rates. Also, how much will you spend on fuel to get there compared to shopping closer to home?
Ask for gift cards. Did you know grocery stores have gift cards? By asking for gift cards for special occasions you can choose the foods your family loves and maybe even justify purchasing a few normally out of reach for your budget. A gift card to a chain store is also great as you can purchase both food and non-food items for your General Store.
Finally, for now, stretch your foods. We tend to love foods that are more expensive. We have already mentioned stretching bacon and chips. For cereals purchase the less expensive name brands of cereal and mix with a box of the favorite but more expensive cereals. For example, less expensive corn squares with cinnamon toast crunch or frosted mini wheats with the unfrosted mini wheats, saves calories too!
We can do this. God did not tell us through ancient scriptures and modern-day prophets of the calamities of the last day to frighten us. He gave us a warning so we could be ready if we choose to be. The choice is ours.
Catching the vision of self-reliance is an important part of our responsibility to live providently and help others in these last days. In this effort, the Lord is certainly our greatest resource. If we prayerfully invite his help and guidance—and act upon it—we will be prepared. (President Kimball Conference Report, Apr. 1974, 184)
Don’t forget to check in each Monday at Totally Ready on Facebook for the food storage and non-food storage challenge of the week. Check back often to money saving tips, items you can add inexpensively to you preparations and tips for dealing with forecast weather conditions. Message questions to Carolyn at Facebook.com/totallyready